Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom wants unlimited access to Waraga Oil exploration site in Kaiso-Tonya Buseruka Sub county, Hoima district.
Kingdom officials claim it is at Waraga where Bunyoro’s ancient King, Omukama Isaza Nyakikooto Waraga Rugambanabato, was buried in the 11th century. They argue that the area is an important historical site in Bunyoro.
It is however, now under threat of extinction following the discovery of oil around it. The area lies within Tullow Uganda’s Waraga Oil Exploration Site in Tonya Parish, Buseruka Sub County. The Kingdom argues that for hundreds of years, the area has been preserved. The kingdom team used to visit the area on a monthly basis to perform rituals there.
Ronald Isagara, the Mugema, or officer in charge Burial and Cultural sites in Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom, says ever since Tullow Uganda took over the area about six years ago, accessibility to the site has been limited.
He says the oil exploration company cordoned off the area making it impossible for the kingdom traditionalists to access it.
Isagara fears that this important cultural site faces extinction if government and the oil companies do not allow the kingdom team to go and preserve it. During a dialogue between Bunyoro kingdom officials and Tullow Oil Uganda on Wednesday, the Waraga issue took centre stage. The Mugema asked for permission to occasionally visit the site.
The Mugema says he is now traversing Bunyoro to identify all cultural sites, as the kingdom intends to rehabilitate and preserve them. He says although many have been encroached on, the kingdom will reclaim them. He explains however, that it may be hard to reclaim the Waraga Cultural site where oil exploration is taking place.
Didas Muhumuza, Tullow Uganda’s Stakeholder Engagement Manager, says the Kingdom’s claim on Waraga area was put to the company’s attention. He however declined to comment further, saying Tullow is only a contractor of government.
Catherine Bekunda, the Communications Officer at the Ministry of Energy, says the kingdom can only be granted permission to Waraga oil site when they write to the ministry. She says the request should clearly indicate the reason they want to visit the area.
According to Bruhan Kyokuhaire, the Bunyoro Kingdom minister of culture, Isaza Nyakikooto Waraga was the first king of Bunyoro to eat fish and that fish was named after him, Waraga.
Though the mythical king died thousands of years ago, his burial site remains vital in Bunyoro as people go there to pray for blessings and perform cultural rituals.
Early last year Yolam Nsamba, the Principal Private Secretary to Omukama Solomon Gafabusa Iguru, blamed government and Tullow for not consulting the kingdom before tampering with the cultural site.